Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyLife as a happy handsome city mouse ends abruptly for Timothy when he looks into the mirror one morning and sees ``a strange creature dressed in black staring at him.'' His brown ears and furry gray body have been replaced by a human-like form sporting a man's hat and coat; only a long tail links him to his original incarnation. Fleeing the city in panic, Timothy seeks refuge in a typically quixotic, Lionni-esque countryside adorned with marbleized trees and paisley boulders. A band of field mice, reassured by the hero's tail, dub him Mr. McMouse and offer membership in their group--if he can pass a battery of tests and earn a field mouse license. The artist's trademark cut paper collages colorfully and succinctly illustrate Timothy's quest, though unfortunately the narrative here is a minor one. This slight tale's opening, in particular, may confuse little ones--why does Timothy change, and exactly who or what does he become? Still, Lionni ( Swimmy ; A Busy Year ) provides Timothy with a hero's ending and weaves a gentle message of self-awareness into this offbeat tale. Ages 2-6. (Oct.)
Ilene CooperTimothy is just a regular city mouse until the day he looks in the mirror and sees a little man reflected back at him. Timothy flees to the country, trying to figure out what's happened and what to do. A group of country mice recognize his true mousy essence and take Timothy under their wing. But: "If you want to stay for good," they point out, "you will have to get a field mouse license, and for that you'll have to pass some tests." Timothy fails the tests. He can't eat tickleberries, they make him sick. He's bad at running and worse at climbing. But when a cat is about to pounce, Timothy is able to lull the feline and save one of his new friends. In his signature fable form, Lionni is out to show that no matter how different you appear, true friends will appreciate you, and your own strengths will find you a place in the community. None of this is heavy handed, though parts of the story are obscure. Why Timothy turns into a man is never even hinted at, and moreover, Timothy, wearing a coat and bowler, doesn't even look like a man--he looks like a mouse wearing a coat and bowler. Kids may more readily accept this flight of fancy than will adults, and as always, youngsters will respond to Lionni's collage-style art, here most effectively used as backgrounds, both city wallpaper and country greenery. As with all of Lionni's stories, this can be used to discuss some important issues with young children.
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